This year saw Doom return as hellish and furiously intense as ever, after remaining over a decade in the shadows. Backed by a fist pumping hard rock soundtrack, a dynamic combat system, and plenty of grotesquely brutal executions, the long-awaited sequel stood as a worthy modern-day successor to the franchise's early pioneering classics. While its multiplayer aspect was admittedly lacking substance at launch, a slew of updates, including the most recent Bloodfall expansion, have worked to subsidise a more well-rounded experience.
A wave of panic rushed over fans after learning that publisher Bethesda wouldn't be providing review codes of the game until launch. This sparked questions over the game's quality and many grew weary as to why the publisher was so reluctant to provide critics with early access. But the world took a collective sigh of relief as the game finally made it onto the shelves, as it emerged as one of the finest shooters of the year, sustaining the soul of the original games and providing a modern twist.
Lavished in widespread acclaim, the main campaign puts you in the shoes of a seemingly voiceless protagonist and sees you descend to the depths of hell to vanquish the invading demons of Mars. Gameplay, similar to the original titles, is blisteringly fast and requires you to manipulate the verticality of the environments to secure an advantage over your harrowing foes. Maintaining a sense of momentum is a must as you'll often find yourself darting out of the path of fiery projectiles, dashing around in desperate need of supplies and hastily retreating to replenish your arsenal.
There's a definite weight felt behind weapons and due to an ever-expanding cast of hellish demons, you'll find yourself switching between them frequently to best adapt to their varied attack patterns. Starting with a plasma charged pistol, it's not long before you encounter a shotgun and other deadly weapons that you'll tear from the hands of mutilated soldiers. Enemies benefit from strong design, and due to the introduction of more and more powerful opponents, waging through hordes rarely feels repetitive. Imps and Cacodemons make a reappearance from classic titles and look as grotesque and ferocious as ever thanks to the game's gloriously impressive visuals.
Timed executions, named Glory Kills, are wonderfully gory and remain unique for each individual enemy type. Similar to actions seen in Bloodborne, there's a definite risk for reward aspect associated to their execution as, missing your opportunity can leave you caught up close and in a position of vulnerability. But by pulling these off you'll be showered in ammunition and health supplies, making them at times, almost a necessity for you to survive. There's just something oddly satisfying about slicing demons up with your chainsaw or bludgeoning them to death with their own arm; especially after they've given you so much hassle.
From blood-soaked laboratories to the fiery pits of demonic hell; Doom's gorgeous visuals are consistent throughout, sporting some of the finest graphics on modern-day consoles. Its frame-rate also runs at a silky smooth 60FPS creating a fluid experience during the frantic bouts of chaos. An atmospheric synthesised soundtrack may have populated earlier titles, but this time composer Mick Gordon has ditched programmed sounds in favour of gritty hard-hitting guitars. In doing so, he was able to craft a score that's just as badass as taking a chainsaw to an Imp's face, which in itself is pretty impressive.
With the original Doom's legacy of revolutionising the shooter genre, it was a little disappointing that the recent reboot's online experience didn't have the same impact as the solo campaign. Halo-veterans Certain Affinity directed multiplayer development ahead of launch, and although they did a solid job, it didn't match the quality of the single-player offering. However, post-launch id reclaimed control over this aspect of the game, and the improvement since May has been tangible, with lots of tweaks improving the experience beyond the inclusion of new maps and game types.
At first it was a little bare-bones. Team Deathmatch was there of course, as well as additional modes including Freeze Tag, Domination and Infernal Run, with others following throughout the year (including, recently, a few free-for-all modes, ideal for lone wolves out there). But it wasn't modes that defined the multiplayer, not even the atmosphere; Doom stood out from the pack due to a mechanic that lets you summon demons during matches, with players taking it in turns to terrorise the opposition. Demons all possess their own individual abilities and it soon descends into a game of cat and mouse when they're unleashed on the battlefield, due to their formidable strength and their ability to highhandedly turn the tide.
One of the most celebrated aspects of the online experience was Snap Maps, which allow players to create their own maps and share them with the community. With this id Software was able to strike a perfect balance of being both deep and intuitive and still remaining easy to showcase your creations to friends. With Snap Maps comes limitless potential and there already stands a strong catalogue of user designed content to delve into, offering hours of unrestricted carnage.
Season pass holders received their first batch of exclusive content in August with the fall of Unto the Evil. The DLC worked to expand upon the online portion of the game, offering three new maps and a ton of customisable gear. A prevalent complaint at launch was that many of the maps were too similar in structure and design; Unto the Evil worked to address this issue offering varied arenas with a much broader scope. The new playable demon was also the cherry on top, being majorly easy to control and spouting charged electrical blasts from the tips of its fingers.
Next to arrive was the fittingly titled Hell Followed, a similar package which honed in again on the multiplayer aspect, but this time it featured some of the most creative maps seen in the game. Orbital, as you probably guessed, takes the battlefield to outer space and sees you fight for supremacy against a backdrop of the stars. Argent Breach differs in the sense that it draws clear inspiration from gothic horror, something which contrasts some of the more futuristic maps seen at launch. The Reaper, the first demonic weapon seen in the game, also made an appearance and proved to be devastating, once you've master its rapid-fire blasts. Of course, like Unto the Evil, there's heaps more customisation items, but once downloaded they will soon start blur together with the initial offering.
Marking the close of the entire package is third and final expansion Bloodfall, which again, includes more of the same (that being three new maps and some extra trimmings). While the season pass did ultimately restore the online aspect to a respectful standard it's still difficult not to feel a little disappointed at the lack of any single-player content (while we did get the Arcade mode not too long ago, in the process giving us a new way to play the campaign, call us greedy but we'd have rather had something entirely new). Even the inclusion of a few additional weapons and items within the campaign would have worked to sweeten the deal, but without them it's hard not to feel a little underwhelmed by the package, especially considering its £30 asking price.
But even a multiplayer experience that fails to match the high quality of the campaign can't topple Doom from the towering heights of being one of the greatest first-person shooters of the year. As a reboot, it seems proud of its illustrious history by keeping the essence of its forbears alive, but it does this whilst also bringing its own fair share of innovative features. Its rocketing pace, meticulously crafted environments, and unashamedly brutally gory action, cement it as a worthy continuation of the franchise's legacy.
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